WINCHESTER, England — The term is often used as a TV sitcom one-liner or a political punchline, but a new study finds that young straight men’s close relationships — combined with more tolerant attitudes — are allowing the so-called “bromance” to be embraced among more masculine circles.
Researchers say a shift in views of homosexuality that’s led to a major decrease in homophobia, coupled with a shared interest in playing sports and the need for an emotional outlet has encouraged young men to pursue these deeper emotional friendships.
The study, conducted at the University of Winchester in the UK, examined the interviews of 30 straight male undergrads who were pursuing a degree related to athletics. The participants had at least one “bromantic” friend at one point or another and were polled on whether or not their bromances involved “secret sharing, emotional intimacy, bed sharing, nudity and kissing other men.”
Researchers found much of that relationship centered on the sharing of deep emotional information. Specifically, the young men had the highest comfort level discussing health issues and sexual desires about women within these bromantic friendships — more so than in conversation with girlfriends or family members.
“They were clear that a bromance offers a deep sense of unburdened disclosure and emotionality based on trust and love,” says study co-author Stefan Robinson in a press release. “The absence of sexual attraction distinguishes these men as heterosexual to both themselves and others, and shows that the men share a progressive understanding that love can exist between two people without the need or requirement for sex with each other.”
The researchers conducted the semi-structured interviews to explore how each relationship started and if it supports the view that declining homophobia and its internalization has had significantly positive implications for male intimacy and expression.
Study co-authors Robinson, Eric Anderson and Adam White note the benefits on the men’s mental health and social well-being because participants indicated these relationships provide a space for emotional disclosure and the discussion of potentially traumatic and sensitive issues.
“For those dealing with depressive symptoms or social anxieties, bromances may offer a way forward and a coping strategy,” explains Robinson.
The study suggests that a wider restructuring of masculinization in society has played a role in the “expansion of social freedoms and learned masculine boundaries.” According to the authors, that restructuring has created a “more emotive and expressive masculine culture that is more in line with women’s modes of interaction.”
The co-authors published their findings in the May edition of Springer’s journal Sex Roles.